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10 Oldest Known Diseases


6
Rabies
The Jamaican fruit bat can carry a rabies virus that can be transmitted to humans.
The Jamaican fruit bat can carry a rabies virus that can be transmitted to humans.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Rabies is ingenious: Not only does it infect a host, but it also hijacks the host's brain in a way that makes the host want to bite things. This is how rabies gets a ticket to ride. And it's been doing it since at least 2300 B.C.E., when it was described in the Eshuma Code of Babylon [source: Rupprecht et al.].

The first person known to have survived rabies without a vaccination is Jeanna Giese, a Wisconsin teen who was bitten in 2004 by a rabid bat while at church. The New York Times reports that Jeanna went a month between bite and treatment, and was admitted to the hospital with symptoms of full-blown rabies [source: Rosenthal]. Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin initiated a cocktail of coma-inducing and antiviral drugs, though Giese's family credits prayer with saving the girl's life.


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